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Workers' rights: Unprotected equipment kills meat plant worker

It is no secret that meat processing plants in Colorado and other states are regarded as some of the most hazardous places to work. Although government statistics indicate that work conditions have improved over recent years, thousands of workers who prepare poultry, pork and beef still compromise their health and safety for millions of consumers. Many claim that workers' rights continue to be violated at slaughterhouses across the country.

A widow of a Colorado meat plant worker described the conditions under which her husband lost his life. Workers are exposed to a variety of hydraulic saws and industrial blenders, metal chains, marinade pumps, steel hooks and conveyor belts. All these are required for disassembling hogs, chickens and cattle as they turn the animals into specific cuts of meat. They have to avoid blood and water on the floors to prevent falls and cope with the hazards of cutting themselves or others while working unprotected.

The woman described her distress when officials came to her house to tell her about her husband's death. He had died some hours earlier while he was working on a piece of unguarded equipment under a conveyor belt. The power to the machine was not isolated, and the working parts caught his hair and his shirt and he was pulled into the unit. The working machine pulled in his clothes and caused restriction of his air supply by bunching around his throat and mouth. That was where he was found later, having suffocated to death.

His wife believes the workers' rights of this 54-year-old husband, father and grandfather were not protected. Although it will not ease the heartache, she is entitled to pursue death benefits claims through the Colorado workers' compensation insurance system. The deceased worker's surviving family members may find some financial relief when the insurance program covers the costs of his funeral and burial and provides a financial package to cover essential daily living expenses for a specified period of time.

Source: kbia.org, "Fines For Meatpackers' Safety Problems Are 'Embarrassingly Low'", Luke Runyon, June 15, 2016

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Eley Law Firm
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